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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of North Dakota

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Jamaican Lottery Fraud Defendant Sanjay Williams Found Guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Fraud and Other Charges

BISMARCK – Sanjay Ashani Williams, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, was found guilty on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud or Mail Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit International Money Laundering, and thirty-five counts of Wire Fraud, after a six-and-a-half-day jury trial in federal court, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers.

Williams sold "lead lists" to Jamaican Lottery Fraud scammers, providing the scammers with the names, telephone numbers, and personal information of potential victims. Williams’ co-conspirators then contacted victims by telephone or mail and falsely told the victims they had won a large sweepstakes prize, such as $3.5 million and a new Mercedes-Benz automobile. Callers repeatedly instructed victims that in order to claim the prize, the victims had to send money, sometimes thousands of dollars, to the scammers to pay non-existent taxes, fees, insurance, and the like. Williams and other scammers deliberately targeted victims over the age of 55. After the "fees" were paid, the victims were required to send more and more money; however, the victims did not receive the promised prize.

The scammers frequently impersonated trusted institutions such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bank of America, the Internal Revenue Service, and state government agencies. They sometimes mailed official-looking, but fake, documents on letterhead to victims. Scammers also used official-looking email addresses, telephone numbers, and sent bogus checks to victims in order to make the scam more convincing.

Williams is the first person prosecuted and convicted, in either the United States or Jamaica, for selling lead lists to be used in the Jamaican Lottery Fraud. In this case alone, over seventy victims were identified, with reported losses totaling over $5,000,000. Individual victims lost as little as $300 and as much as $800,000 to the scam. Williams was one of the first Jamaican national defendants implicated in the Jamaican Lottery Fraud to have been tried and convicted in the United States. Prior to Williams’ trial, 11 indicted defendants from Jamaica and the United States were arrested and pleaded guilty in this case, and 14 indicted defendants are awaiting arrest and extradition from Jamaica. Three additional co-conspirators were charged in a separate Indictment.

Acting United States Attorney Christopher Myers said, "This case should send the message to fraudsters around the world, ‘If you victimize North Dakota citizens, we can and will find you and bring you to justice.’ It is our hope that this groundbreaking prosecution will open doors for other jurisdictions to prosecute these cases and that the lessons we’ve learned can be used across the country."

Corporal Kevin Watson of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), Lottery Scam Task Force, in Jamaica, testified at the trial as an expert witness. An official from MOCA in Jamaica emphasized the willingness of Jamaican law enforcement officials to continue to work in partnership with their United States counterparts to fight the ongoing scourge of the lottery fraud, and to assist in the efforts to bring the remaining indicted Jamaican defendants to trial in North Dakota.

Williams faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines, restitution, and criminal forfeiture. The Honorable Daniel L. Hovland has set a sentencing hearing for Williams on August 6, 2015, in United States District Court, Bismarck, ND.

The case was investigated by the North Dakota office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in Florida, with assistance from many other federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as Jamaican law enforcement agencies.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter, Assistant U. S. Attorney Nick Chase, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Patrick Thomas, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea prosecuted the case.

Updated May 7, 2015